Have you ever noticed that you don’t get to choose when in history you live? God chooses that for you.
I’m so glad that God has allowed me to live at this time, because I believe we are living in one of the best times in redemptive history. Why, you ask? Because the opportunities we have to proclaim and advance the gospel couldn’t be clearer. Here is what I mean.
Gospel Light In Our Dark World
Our world is rapidly changing. In America, the social issues we are facing, like the erosion of biblical sexual ethics and the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states, are evidences of how our world is becoming more post-Christian. While these trends in our culture may stir fear in you and discourage you, I believe they are opportunities for the gospel to shine even brighter in a world that is growing increasingly darker.
When Jesus stepped into our dark world, he came as the “light of the world” (John 8:12), offering hope to those who live in darkness: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). By the grace of God and through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we are those who believe in Jesus. We no longer live in darkness! And as those who have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13), we exist to bring his message of gospel hope to a world that is growing darker. What a wonderful time to be alive in redemptive history!
Our gospel light will shine brighter and brighter in a world that is growing darker and darker. Jesus reminds us of who we are and what he has called us to do: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).
May God continue to give us opportunities to share the gospel with those around us who are living in darkness. And may God allow us, as a family of churches, to advance the gospel through church planting.
Gospel Advancement Through Church Planting
I’m sure you’ve noticed that church planting has enjoyed a resurgence all over the world. There are several gospel-centered organizations and denominations that are reaching the lost with the gospel by planting gospel-centered churches. This is another reason I believe it’s a great time to be alive in redemptive history as Jesus draws the lost to himself through the planting of churches.
In Sovereign Grace, we are attempting to play our small part in advancing the gospel through church planting, not because it’s the “thing to do” but because church planting has always been a part of our DNA. My point is this: Sovereign Grace exists during this period of redemptive history to make Jesus known to those all over the world who don’t know him as Lord and Savior.
May God give our family of churches the resources and grace to plant more churches so we can reach every tribe, tongue, and nation with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as we labor on his behalf, may our gospel light shine even brighter, and may Jesus receive all the glory!
Street photo from Shutterstock.
Mark Prater is the Executive Director for Sovereign Grace and serves as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. He and his wife, Jill, have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren.
We had our first formal meeting as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Assembly of Elders (MA RAE) on July 29 in Bowie, Maryland.
As our first order of business, we formally approved and now have all of our regional committees in place.
Once our committees were established, we started working on our calendar for the coming months, as one of our major goals within our Region is to strengthen relationships and encourage fellowship and mutual care for the elders in our region. We are planning a Family Crab Feast hosted by Ed O’Mara at New Covenant Church in Arnold in September (Thanks, Ed!), an MA RAE Couples and Guests Lunch at the upcoming Sovereign Grace Pastors Conference, and a Senior Pastors Couples Retreat in March 2015.
We welcomed Mark Turek from Sovereign Grace Church (SGC) in Joppa as our newest RAE member. Mark worked full-time on the SGC staff from 1980–2003. Mark served in a variety of capacities but primarily as our Christian school’s administrator for over 20 years. Upon his ordination in 1998, he served as our Family Life Pastor. In 2003, he stepped out of his full-time pastoral position to care for his wife, Carol, whose MS had advanced to the point where he could no longer serve as a pastor and continue to serve his wife well. Last year, Carol went home to be with the Lord. Mark currently serves as a bi-vocational pastor while he continues to works as a speech-language pathologist. He has two married daughters and two grandchildren. We are both delighted and excited to have him once again serving SGC Joppa as a pastor and serving as a member of our RAE.
John Loftness, the Senior Pastor of Solid Rock Church, told us about his church’s plans to plant a church in Bowie, Maryland, where approximately 25% of his church members live. The goal is to make gospel connections with neighbors and connect them to the relational network of the church. Plans are moving forward for Sunday meetings to begin in the fall with the church becoming a separate congregation in early 2015.
Jimmy Cannon shared that SGC in Joppa is moving forward to establish a campus in White Marsh, Maryland in the fall. SGC has had a burden for a while to better position itself to reach out to the Baltimore County area, while continuing to reach out to the Harford and Cecil County areas through the Joppa Campus.
As we also share a desire to find ways for our churches to participate together in regional functions, we discussed the upcoming Northeast Regional Leaders Conference and the possibility of having a regional men’s retreat together.
During lunch, Bob Donohue and Joselo Mercado gave us an update on a recent missions trip to the Dominican Republic in which both of their churches participated. This segued into other discussions about what our regional churches are doing in the area of missions.
Larry Malament said he had recently returned from his 50th trip to India and also made another trip to Songhwan Kang’s church in South Korea. Jimmy mentioned that SGC in Joppa had participated in a medical missions trip to India last year and had visited our sister church in Zambia to explore opportunities to serve there. Joselo mentioned that his church was planning a missions trip to Bolivia, and Bob mentioned that our sister church in Australia had invited him to visit them.
It became obvious quickly that our churches are very passionate about advancing the gospel and building the church, not only nationally, but internationally as well. So the next time we meet, we will be discussing how to better partner together in the area of missions.
All in all, we had a wonderful time of encouraging, edifying, and envisioning one another as we seek to move forward together to fulfill God’s vision for us, not only as individual churches within our region but as a regional movement of churches called to co-labor together to glorify God within and beyond our region.
It truly is a great privilege for me and my wife, Daryl, to fellowship with and serve these seasoned pastors and their wives who are “men (and women) of a different spirit” (Numbers 14:24). They are men and women who are passionate for God and his glory, who daily lay their lives down for the churches they love and serve so well, and who are working together to advance the gospel both here and abroad!
Road photo from Shutterstock.
Jim is the Regional Leader for the Mid-Atlantic Region of Sovereign Grace. He also serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church (Joppa, MD).
We are rapidly approaching our one-year anniversary as Redemption Hill Church. Planting this church with these dear friends has been one of the great highlights of my life and a treasure trove of stories about God’s grace. Here is a bit of our narrative in this first year:
September 15, 2013 was our first public Sunday. Team members had moved from Arizona and North Carolina and Juarez, Mexico and Louisville and had joined us from communities around Austin itself. We spent last summer studying our core convictions as a church and remembering the privilege we have to build a biblical foundation for future generations. We met on Sunday mornings in homes for several months in a relatively casual format, hearing teaching, discussing, praying, and anticipating together. We held several interest meetings, inviting neighbors and new acquaintances to come and find out about the church. Lifegate Church in Seguin, Texas, led by Bob Odom and Josh Jordan, hosted us for a Sunday barbecue to encourage our church plant team.
Then, on September 15th, our church was born. Our first message came from 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 and celebrated the gospel of Jesus Christ as our permanent first priority, proclaimed in dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit. Since that day, a number of new members have become central to our community—people we did not know a year ago are now an integral part of our church life. We enjoyed our first two baptisms and many occasions of celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
We have been blessed by a large number of Sovereign Grace leaders who have been in town and have taken the time to greet our church and express affection and support. Tim Kerr, Craig Cabaniss, Pete Payne, Billy Raies, Rich Richardson, Steve Tong, Chris Daukas, Adam Prather, Carlos Contreras, Rob Tombrella, John Loftness, Ian McConnell, and Josh Jordan all either visited us, encouraged our church publicly, or gave an entire message on a Sunday—a remarkable parade of support from our family of churches. We also benefited from two different worship team substitutions from Grace Church in Frisco, as well as a Grace Church evangelistic team that came down for a weekend to spread the word about our church and to also spend an evening serving a member of our church.
Our pastoral intern, Aaron Mayfield, has been a particular gift to us, shouldering the weight of engaging in pastoral ministry while also working another full-time job—an amazing display of faith and love for the mission of Jesus Christ. We have journeyed through the book of Colossians, as well as an evangelism series, a series on Jonah, a series on membership, and currently a survey series through the Pentateuch. God has answered our prayers for provision miraculously—including a church donating a large amount of equipment and assets to us along with faithful, generous giving from our church community. We’ve also enjoyed the amazing provision of a rented facility that has plenty of space, including storage capacity, and is easy for guests to find—once again, a miraculous answer to prayer.
God has also sustained our team through unique challenges and difficulties, which we believe to be spiritual opposition in relation to the planting of our church. Team members have faced unique spiritual temptations and physical challenges, along with the normal shock of moving away from dear family and friends and an established church and job. Their enduring faith and godliness is a testimony to the grace of God in their lives and God’s incredible love for the people in our community who are benefiting from their service and example. I know some heroic church planters face the daunting task of starting a church without a team, and I pray God will surround them with support soon. For me, life without this incredible group of friends and partners is the definition of a nightmare. These “saints in the land” are the “excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3).
As our second year approaches, we are praying for boldness in evangelism, endurance to face fresh trials, further richness in our community life, and greater passion to know God in our public meetings and private worship. If this first year is any indication, year two will be full of stories of God’s grace, stories of partnership, and stories of the power of the gospel again.
To all of our dear friends throughout Sovereign Grace: Many thanks for your faith, your generosity, your prayers, your encouragement, and your affection. We are grateful and indebted to you and count it a privilege to be partnering with you as you have partnered with us.
Jon is the senior pastor of Redemption Hill Church in Round Rock, Texas and is a member of Sovereign Grace’s Executive Committee. He and his wife, Lory, have three children.
We came from one end of Texas and the other. We came from suburban communities and from more rural communities. We came from different backgrounds and ethnicities. But we came together for one reason: because the gospel had united us as elders with a passion to see Jesus change more lives like ours in Texas and the South Central region.
At the end of July, about 20 men from the South Central region gathered in Round Rock, Texas for three days of prayer, encouragement, and planning. The three messages given there also served as broad themes for our retreat, and as God worked through his word, he also worked in surprising ways to drive these themes home.
Revival: Craig Cabaniss—lead pastor of Grace Church in Frisco, Texas as well as the Director of Church Development for Sovereign Grace––led us in a study on the topic of revival in Scripture, encouraging us to pursue the ordinary means of grace while we ask God to do an extraordinary work through them. Throughout the retreat, we spent significant time in prayer for one another, making time to hear from each elder and about each church. As we heard stories of God’s grace in our churches in the last year, it stirred our hearts toward faith for what God can and is doing among us.
Mission: Carlos Contreras—lead pastor at Gracia Soberana in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico––gave us an encouraging report of what God is doing in Latin America through Gracia Soberana in Ciudad Juarez, and he used God’s Word to call us onward in our mission together. We considered how we as a region could serve our brothers in Mexico and beyond. During the retreat, we also worked through a new framework for planting churches together and heard about some potential opportunities to plant churches in our region. We gathered in Round Rock, Texas, the site of our most recent church plant, precisely in order to be stirred to plant more churches across our region.
Pastoral Ministry: Tim Shorey—a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania and Regional Leader for the Northeast region––taught on bivocational pastoral ministry in a clear, biblical, and practical way. Nearly every church in our region either has bivocational elders or is in process to appoint them. A personal highlight was that my own father, Joe Alcantar, was affirmed by our regional elders as part of his ordination process. As a faithful husband and father, a member of our church’s pastoral team for over 25 years, and a respected man in our community, he is a wonderful example of the kind of men we want to see pastoring in our churches—even when not serving as a pastor full-time.
Of course, no regional meeting for us would be complete without consuming huge (and potentially unhealthy) amounts of Texas barbecue, watching ten church leaders cram into tiny go-carts and trash-talk each other, or collectively sharing a likely misguided but enthusiastic hope for the upcoming Dallas Cowboys season.
We left our retreat with a renewed commitment to the importance of prayer and, in that spirit, here are a few specific ways you can pray for us and for our region:
- Pray that God would work in extraordinary ways through the ordinary means of grace (preaching, singing, prayer, counsel, etc.).
- Pray that multiplying disciples and multiplying churches would be part of our DNA as a region.
- Pray that God would continue to help us raise up elders and pastors who image the Chief Shepherd.
Road photo from Shutterstock.
Ricky is the lead pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas. He and his wife, Jenn, have one son.
We take global missions seriously at Sovereign Grace because we take the glory of God seriously. That’s why I’m excited to tell you a bit of the story of my friends, Mario and Jen Vucenovic, and their vision to spread the gospel in Dalmatia, Croatia. I hope this small glimpse whets your appetite to find out more about the Vucenovics and support them prayerfully and financially as the Lord leads.
Devoted to Christ
In November 2005, Mario promised his Savior that he would spend the rest of his life proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and the miracle Jesus did in saving him to the world. The Vucenovics have been worshiping with the disciples in Christ Community Church in Reading, Pennsylvania, where their pastors and congregation share the same burden to proclaim Christ in truth. Mario and Jen have been growing and learning about who Jesus is and what it means to live their lives on gospel mission.
For the last eight years, they have felt a burden and a need to make Jesus Christ known in Croatia, Mario’s home country. Like Mario would tell you, in Croatia, many people go to church but may not know Jesus as the Savior of their souls. It is Mario and Jen’s prayer that God would use a native Croatian who understands the language, culture, and values to bring him glory by planting a local church that celebrates and proclaims the life-transforming power of the gospel.
Mario recently traveled up and down the coast of Croatia to visit six churches to see what their needs were and find out how they can best serve there. There is a profound need for Croatian leaders in the local church. There are many faithful foreign or short-term missionaries who are not native to the language and culture and whose desire is to train and equip natives to disciple their own people. There is also a need for new church plants. There are many towns where you will find followers of Jesus with no church and no pastors. Many believers travel over an hour to attend a gospel-preaching church. Therefore, Mario and Jen long to see new believers come and be discipled the way they have been discipled in their local church in Reading.
They hope to reach this goal in four steps, Lord willing. They are willing to make sacrifices, just as others are making sacrifices to help them reach Croatia with the gospel. So they are currently selling their home and possessions and using the proceeds from the home to fund the following steps as much as possible:
- Study Bible and theology in Mario’s native language and serve the local Croatian church. Christ Community Church is sending them to partner locally with The Master’s Academy International (connected with The Master’s Seminary in California), which operates a theological training center in Krapina, Croatia. Their mission is to train native Croatians to plant and pastor local churches.
Beginning this September, their family will spend ten months training at the school, studying Bible and theology in Mario’s native language and serving the local church. All the while, they will engage locals through outreach; through providing support, leadership, and encouragement; and through establishing the foundations for a long-term ministry. Their goal is to raise $20,000 for this trip, and they have committed a minimum of $5,000 of their own money toward it.
- Attend the Sovereign Grace Pastors College in fall of 2015. They have been tentatively accepted into the program for next fall and will use their house sale proceeds toward the living expenses and costs to attend.
- Complete a one-year pastoral internship.
- Plant a church in Dalmatia, Croatia.
How You Can Get Involved
Be a part of God’s work in Croatia:
- Please pray for unwavering trust in the Lord as Mario and Jen travel the path he has mapped out for them. Pray for much-needed grace as they keep their eyes fixed on Jesus—that he will continue to sustain and lead them. Ask the Lord that they would not be tempted to do anything in their own strength, but that they would cling to him through each bump and turn in the road. And pray for their family of six to adjust to life in Croatia.
- Please financially partner with them in bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to Croatia. They are asking us to join hands with them to plant a Christ-centered, Christ-exalting, Sovereign Grace church in a 95% Catholic country. God will save and redeem his people from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation, and you will be at his throne worshiping the Lamb who was slain with those who will be rescued through this gospel endeavor in Croatia! One-time gifts or monthly support in any amount is greatly appreciated as it enables them to serve the Lord full-time. They know it would not be possible to go without our support.
Learn more about who they are, receive updates, and find out how to give at their website.
Street photo and Croatia map from Shutterstock.
Ian is Sovereign Grace's Director of Church Planting and Mission. He also serves as the lead pastor of Grace City Church in Northeast Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ian and his wife, Rachel, have three children.
June 26, 2014 by
Categories: Church planting
For the past three days, Sovereign Grace’s National Church Planting Group met to strengthen our disciple making efforts. This group consists of Ian McConnell, Andy Farmer, Mike Seaver, Chris Daukas, Ricky Alcantar, and Greg Dietrich.
Here are some specific highlights from our time together:
- We marveled at the Lord of the harvest and the power of God in passages like Matthew 9:35–38 and 1 Corinthians 2:1–5.
- We poured out our hearts to the Lord of the harvest to provide laborers to advance the gospel by planting churches.
- We shared how God is moving among us both personally and throughout the regions of our family of churches.
- We prayed for and encouraged each other.
- We considered and refined our vision for making disciples and planting churches together.
- We continued to develop the assessment and training process for interested leaders to partner with Sovereign Grace through planting and adopting.
- We visited Philadelphia and Princeton area sites for a Great Awakening Tour.
- And we may have spent time watching Phillies baseball and the World Cup!
Please pray for our church planting efforts. Without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). In harmony with Revelation 5:9, we long for “every tribe and language and people and nation” to proclaim that their Redeemer is worthy of all glory and honor and praise!
Street photo from Shutterstock.
Bryan (@BryanDeWire) is the Communications Manager at Sovereign Grace.
One of the reasons I love being a part of Sovereign Grace is because of our shared desire to reach the lost with the gospel through church planting. I want to tell you how God is using our small church plant in the Wissinoming section of Northeast Philadelphia to do just that.
God gave us favor to host 500 people for our Easter celebration at Grace City Church-Wissinoming. He provided a unique platform for us to listen to our neighbors as they shared their concerns for our struggling neighborhood. And he gave us the opportunity not only to listen, but also to speak the hope of Christ. We have already seen fruit from these conversations, as a few young believers have been faithful participants in our church family.
We also strive to serve our neighborhood. Recently, we took part in a cleanup day in which we helped our local elementary school. We received a big bundle of handwritten thank you cards from the kids, and we are continuing to develop relationships with some of the teachers and volunteers.
Likewise, I couldn’t be more encouraged by what God is doing in our church family. We have several young parents—many of whom are young believers—who are so eager to know what God says about parenting. We have started to gather together to discuss these matters and explore what heart change looks like personally as well as in parenting. It has brought tremendous joy to hear that these parents are actually doing what they are learning, by God’s grace. And they are finding joy in doing so!
The constant flow of unbelievers into our gatherings has also given us great delight. People are coming in the most unexpected ways. For instance, one teenage girl who has struggled through a difficult family situation has recently brought most of Pizza Hut’s evening shift with her. And each of her friends from work have commented on how they want to know more about how she leans on God to get through her difficulties because, of course, they are suffering similar pain. On Sunday, a few of her coworkers were in tears during the songs, and they were eager to ask me questions after the service about forgiveness. What incredible opportunities!
Besides all of this, we have needed to baptize numerous people. So we are getting ready to celebrate God’s amazing grace in the lives of several new believers, and we can’t wait to do so!
While God has been working in so many ways, much of what he is doing he is making possible through Sovereign Grace. There is no other way around it. Without our family of churches, this wouldn’t be happening. God is changing individual families and individual people as we continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ!
If you’re interested in supporting work in our Northeast Region like this, prayerfully consider giving to our Mission Fund and designating your gift for “US Regional Church Planting.”
Jesus promised, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mathew 16:18). The SOVEREIGN GRACE National Church Planting Group has the hope-filled privilege of serving the churches of Sovereign Grace to partner together in advancing the mission of the unstoppable gospel.
There are church planters to be raised up who will lead teams of disciples to go with the gospel and spread the fame of Christ. There are people who don’t know Jesus, who will hear the gospel and become disciples. There are churches to be planted where the gospel has little to no presence. This will happen! Jesus will build his church—and it’s amazing that we all get to be a part of it.
The National Church Planting Group is driven by the promise of the unstoppable gospel to continue our rich history of partnering together to make disciples and plant churches for the glory of God. As a team of servants, we have the privilege of serving together in order to help facilitate this partnership, region by region, in relation to our shared vision, mission, values and polity.
This week I will be leading a training event in Austin, Texas with the National Church Planting Group and representatives from our Regional Church Planting Committees. The goal is to equip our pastors serving on their regional committees to carry out the essential tasks of assessing church planters and church adoptions with consistency & efficiency.
Please pray for us as we gather! Here are some ways you can specifically pray…
- Wednesday night we will be holding a prayer meeting asking the Father to pour out the Holy Spirit to give us greater vision and faith for advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout our existing regions and beyond.
Pray for God to meet with us and that the overflow from this prayer meeting would bless Sovereign Grace Churches that exist and do not exist yet.
- Thursday morning we will be hearing from Jeff Vanderstelt, who leads SOMA network, on the vital relationship of Gospel Community & Gospel Mission.
Pray for God to use this teaching to provoke us in areas of weakness where we need to grow as a church planting movement, reinforce ways in which we are strong and need to express gratitude to God for his grace, and develop a relationship with another church planting network that shares our core theology, mission and values.
- Thursday late morning until late afternoon we will be leading discussion on revamping our church planting and church adoption process to bring it into conformity to our decentralized regional polity with the hopes we will walk away with a shared vision of carrying this out in our regions in anticipation of God’s blessing.
Pray for God to use the National Church Planting Group to envision and equip our Regional Church Planting Committee members to understand and apply the assessment process with consistency & efficiency across our regions. Also pray for all of us to experience unity in the midst of our diversity as we seek to develop parts of the process that are in progress.
- Thursday Night through Saturday afternoon we will be attending the VERGE conference which aims to equip leaders in the mission of making disciples & planting churches.
Pray for God to use the conference and the entire retreat to draw us together relationally as we worship, learn and serve together.
Thank you for your prayers and keep your eyes open for updates, pictures, and sound bytes on Twitter and Facebook.
I am so glad we are in this together.
On Sunday February 9, Christ Community Church celebrated our first year of public meetings. In the fall of 2012, around 35 faithful servants (adults and kids) moved to the “north shore” of Lake Pontchartrain, which provides a natural barrier to the north of New Orleans. We were sent from Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans where many of us had been established for 20 years and more!
We were drawn to the Mandeville/Covington area of St. Tammany Parish (on the north shore) to plant a church with some folks who had been commuting to attend Lakeview. St. Tammany Parish is an affluent area but also an area desperate for gospel hope and healing. The parish has maintained the highest suicide rate for the state the past couple of decades. Churches marred by splits have left believers disillusioned and wandering from church to church.
We began our public meetings at a church on Saturday evenings and, after six months, we signed a lease for the building that we met in on Saturdays. We have had front row seats to experience the faithfulness of God in astounding ways. Since we moved into our own church home, we have been well received in the surrounding community. We have gone door-to-door introducing ourselves to the community on numerous occasions and have sensed a unique opening for the gospel that we are seeking to be used by the Lord to advance in the coming months and years.
In planting Christ Community Church, we prayed to see conversions. And the Lord has answered our prayers for conversions in ways beyond our imagination!
Our first conversion was the sweet moment when my daughter, ten years old at the time, came to the awareness of her own sinfulness as we continued to cast the vision of our family's involvement in planting a church to see people come to trust Christ for salvation. We had spent months before and after our move envisioning our five kids still at home about God’s call on us to plant a church to see people come to repentance. My daughter began to ask deep questions about her relationship with God, and she prayed with us in her room, surrendering her life to Christ. A couple of months later, the same thing happened to my younger daughter, who was eight years old at the time. I never anticipated our first converts coming from my own house, but I am overjoyed!
This past October, we moved into our own church building, allowing us to move our worship gathering to Sundays. We spent a couple months renovating and personalizing the building in preparation for an Open House Sunday on December 22. A mom in our church had been praying for years for her two daughters to come to faith in the Lord. She invited them both to the Open House, and they both came. The married daughter brought her husband as well. That Sunday, we had a couple share their testimony of coming to Christ during the service, and then I preached a message targeted to the lost. The invited couple couldn't stop crying the whole time. Benny, the husband, shared that when they came, the emptiness they had been trying to deal with and fill was finally gone after God touched them both. They haven’t missed a Sunday since.
Our most recent conversion occurred in late January. The men of the church met to discuss our study of The Godly Man's Picture. Ten minutes into a discussion on forgiveness, a guy named Brad interrupted me. Brad had come to church the previous two Sundays with his family as a result of an outreach in his community about two miles from church. He was sitting right next to me and asked for prayer because of the hatred and anger he had for his dad. He said that if he died that night, he knew he would go to hell because of his anger. I asked him a series of questions about his salvation, and he prayed with us all on the spot to repent of his sins and trust Christ for salvation as the men gathered around him. It was a glorious moment indeed!
The new believers added to our church family has served to reignite passion and zeal that reminds us of the sweetness of our own conversion experiences. We pray for more conversions. We pray for our growth as disciples. We pray for Christ to be preeminent in all things!
Jeff Ehrhardt is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Covington, Louisiana.
If you’re like me, there are certain verses that stick with you because they call you to live your life in a certain way. One of those verses for me, and I believe for Sovereign Grace is 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” This verse calls us to remain steadfast in the work of the gospel. The faith-stirring truth is that our labors for the gospel are not in vain!
As the Executive Director of Sovereign Grace, I have the unique vantage point of seeing how God is using our family of churches in the steadfast work of the gospel. I want you to see what I see, because our labors for the gospel are not in vain. So here are some snapshots from my last few weeks. As you read these stories, I hope they not only stir your faith to continue to labor for the gospel, but also remind you of the mission we share as a family of churches.
A few weeks ago I attended Grace City Church in the Wissinoming section of Northeast Philadelphia. This church plant, led by Dan Birkholz is meeting in a 90+ year old church building that they were given last year. The church building gives them a presence in the community from which they can reach out to the people living in the surrounding neighborhoods. Through the faithful labors and outreach of the members on the Grace City church planting team, this church has grown in attendance from 30 to 60 in the last couple of months! On the Sunday I was there I met Doug, who is from Northeast Philadelphia, and was attending for the very first time. As we talked he told me about the rough life that he had lived, and that he decided to come to church because he had been invited and because he “wanted to come back to Jesus.” I told Doug if that’s what he wanted, he was in the right place. You see, that morning we sang the truths of the gospel, and Dan clearly preached the gospel in his sermon from Ephesians 1. The labors of Grace City Church are not in vain because Doug heard the life-saving message of the gospel that morning. I drove home that afternoon reminded again of one of the reasons Sovereign Grace exists. We exist to plant churches as a means to proclaim the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus!
Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from Jeff Ehrhardt. Last year Jeff was sent from Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans to plant Christ Community Church in Covington, LA. In his e-mail Jeff told me of a man who recently was born again. This is how Jeff recounts the story: “Our most recent conversion occurred last Thursday. The men of the church met at church to discuss our study of The Godly Man's Picture. 10 minutes into the discussion on forgiveness, Brad interrupted me. Brad had come to church the previous two Sundays with his family as a result of an outreach in his community about 2 miles from church. He was sitting right next to me and asked for prayer because of the hatred and anger he had for his dad. He told us that if he died that night he knew he would go to hell because of his anger. I asked him a series of questions about his salvation, and he prayed with us all on the spot to repent of his sins and trust Christ for salvation as the men gathered around him. It was a glorious moment indeed!”
Why did Brad attend this study? Because the members of Christ Community Church were abounding in the work of the Lord by reaching out to their community. As I read Jeff’s e-mail, tears filled my eyes because we serve a God who still saves!! And Brad’s story reminded me again of the mission we share in Sovereign Grace; to reach those who don’t know Jesus with the good news of the gospel.
This past week I had a phone call with my friend Carlos Contreras. Carlos is the Sr. Pastor of Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Cd. Juarez, Mexico. One of the reasons we scheduled a call is because in a couple of weeks Carlos is traveling to Spain, on behalf of Sovereign Grace, to talk with pastors about planting churches in Spain and the Canary Islands. We don’t know if those churches will ever be a part of Sovereign Grace. We simply want to serve them, and I know we have much to learn from them. I’m telling you about this conversation for a couple of reasons. First, please pray for Carlos as he makes this trip. In particular, ask God to give Carlos wisdom in knowing how to best serve these pastors as they consider how to plant churches in Spain. Second, Carlos told me that only about 1% of the people in Spain are evangelical Christians. That statistic alone is a reminder that we are living in a post-Christian world which only makes our labors for the gospel more necessary and more urgent. You see it is vital that our family of churches remain steadfast and immovable in our labors for the gospel.
I hope these stories remind you that God is at work all around us. I hope these stories also encourage you to remain steadfast and immovable in your labors to make the gospel known. Let us not grow weary in abounding in gospel work because our labors are not in vain!